Friday, November 17, 2017

Jen Turano's "Out of the Ordinary" - funnier than ever

Out of the Ordinary (Apart From the Crowd #2)Gertrude Cadwalader's job is to keep her employer happy--she's a paid companion, after all. That means wearing Mrs. Davenport's extremely creative fashions in public--not for the easily humiliated--and occasionally returning a pilfered item that somehow ended up in her light-fingered employer's possession. Harrison Sinclair has long admired Gertrude's practicality and spunk, and when his own mother accuses her of thievery, he leaps to her defense. Through outlandish escapades and grand romantic gestures, he hopes to turn their friendship into something more.

I love the quirky characters that Turano comes up with. Not just the main characters, but all those meddling little old ladies, the spunky sisters, the friends who are only trying to help (with comically disastrous results). I knew Mrs. Davenport had to have some kind of backstory to her kleptomania, but I didn't expect anything so tender. I'm glad she sees restoration too.

The romance is sweet, the cast delightful, but best of all is the author's sense of humor. Which leads me to . . .

The List of Romantic Gestures. I laughed so hard. I tried explaining to my husband what was going on (seeing as he was looking at me with concern while I appeared to be having a fit on the other end of the couch), but I could hardly get the words out. Every time I looked back at the page I started laughing again. When I finally got it under control, I turned the page to the next scene--and it started all over again. Brilliant.

If you love the old, clean romantic comedies, or humor akin to The Importance of Being Earnest, then this is the book for you. Though I do recommend reading the prequel and Behind the Scenes first for the deepest enjoyment of this quirky series.

Thank you Bethany House for the free book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Apart from the Crowd
0.5: "At Your Request"
1. Behind the Scenes
2. Out of the Ordinary
3. Caught by Surprise

Monday, November 13, 2017

Julianna Deering's "Death at Thorburn Hall" - perfect end to the series

Death at Thorburn Hall (Drew Farthering Mystery #6)Drew and Madeline Farthering are vacationing up in Scotland for the British Opener when their host--a man who invited Drew for the purpose of investigating his business partner--dies in an accident. Or was it an accident? Of course, Drew can't keep his nose out of the investigation, especially when it becomes clear it was murder. But how do German spies, gigolo golf caddies, and phony Russian thieves all tie together?

This was the perfect final book to the series, where all those little things--like Nick and Carrie's relationship and a certain mystery I had completely forgotten about--are finally resolved. I loved the sense of the international scene in this one--not so much the golfing (a very minor part of the story, anyway), but how people are keeping an eye on eastern Europe and the new regime growing in Germany, and how it is a controversial topic and growing point of concern. The clock is noticeably ticking down toward WWII.

I really appreciate how the author portrays Drew and Madeline's relationship. They got married three books ago, and yet somehow the adventure hasn't ended! Plus they're still cute and romantic, even after several years of marriage (the climbing up to the window scene was adorable and funny). Like all married couples, they've had to work through issues, but they've also found their rhythm and now they get to help Nick and Carrie work through their issues, having experienced much the same things themselves.

This was a case where I really had no good guess on the murderer. Now that it's solved, I can see why Drew was a confused as I was; it was a sneaky trick on the author's part. I heartily approve. Complex, yet the clues were really all there, if I had only recognized them as such.

If I'm wrong about this being the last Drew Farthering mystery, then I won't be disappointed.

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for an e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Drew Farthering Mysteries
1. Rules of Murder
2. Death by the Book
3. Murder at the Mikado
4. Dressed for Death
5. Murder on the Moor
6. Death at Thorburn Hall

Friday, November 10, 2017

Lisa Harris's "Vanishing Point"

Vanishing Point (Nikki Boyd Files #4)
Garrett Addison's first week on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation leads him to the murder scene of a teenage girl--the third victim in a string of disappearances with one thing in common: a Polaroid picture found at the crime scene. With FBI agent Jordan Lambert, his old flame from the police academy, he begins a decade-long investigation into the serial killer dubbed the Angel Abductor. When no leads turn up and more girls go missing, can they keep up their hope of ever catching the killer?

Now I understand why this book is labeled a Nikki Boyd novel as opposed to one of the Nikki Boyd Files. Rather than being another of Nikki's cases, this is the story of the ultimate case--the Angel Abductor and murderer, starting with its beginnings, working through the disappearance of Nikki's sister, and ending in the present day when the case is ultimately solved. As such, the focus is on the main investigators of the case--Jordan and Garrett--rather than Nikki herself, though she takes active part in the latter days of the investigation.

Because the case is strung out over so many years, the book reads a bit differently than the average suspense. It's still fast-paced--really, quite a feat for something that is essentially a cold case--but one can feel the frustration and hopelessness as yet another girl is abducted and murdered, with no leads to follow until the next victim is chosen. Like the case, Jordan and Garrett's romance starts and stops--starts and stops--and ultimately doesn't go anywhere until the end either, when in this situation, a bit of impetus and some communication might have gone a long way. I didn't feel that either of them wanted it enough to take a risk or make the sacrifice to make it work (neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm . . . )

I did enjoy the book, since it filled in all the details and provided closure on the big, unsolved case of the Nikki Boyd Files. It wasn't my favorite, but it definitely has an important place in the series.

Thank you Revell and NetGalley for the free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Nikki Boyd Files
1. Vendetta
2. Missing
3. Pursued
4. Vanishing Point

Monday, November 6, 2017

Lynn Austin's "Where We Belong"

Where We BelongRebecca and Flora Hawes, brought up by a somewhat eccentric father, both long to find their place in life, even when the roles for Victorian women are extremely limited. In spite of the dictates of society, the girls have a love of travel, history, and adventure that sends them to Europe, Egypt, and the Holy Land. Thirty years after their first foreign adventure, they find themselves, their starchy young butler Soren Petersen, and their fiery maid Kate in a desert sandstorm, dependent on a sheikh with possible alternate motives for helping them. As their journey becomes more uncertain, they each sift through their memories that led them to this desert.

I definitely wouldn't call it a fast-paced novel; the vast majority of the story is told in flashbacks (thankfully all done chronologically, except for when it jumps back to the present), so it reads more like a memoir, with Rebecca being the main focus, but Flora and, to a lesser extant, Soren and Kate having their share of memories. There's no real sense of urgency to the plot, and as such I had no problem putting the book down to go do other things.

The history behind the story was fascinating--two adventurous women really did go off on their own to travel the Holy Land and discovered a palimpsest of the bible, written hundreds of years before. Knowing that it was loosely based off history made the story more interesting. I've always taken it for granted that the bible is proven true and unchanged since forever, but this book reminded me that there was a time--not so very long ago--in which ancient scrolls and codices that prove the authenticity of the bible had not yet been discovered by the modern world.

The story is littered with spiritual references, and it's good to see the sisters relying on God, whatever the adventure they find themselves in. Each of the four characters is searching for the place where they belong, though the place may not be where modern society deems it should. I wish there had been a little more spark to the story, but it wasn't bad by any means. Just long and rather slow.

Thank you Bethany house and NetGalley for a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, November 3, 2017

November Christian Fiction releases

November's new releases offer humor, mystery, suspense, contemporary romance, and women's fiction--a nice variety!
Out of the Ordinary (Apart From the Crowd #2) Death at Thorburn Hall (Drew Farthering Mystery #6) Vanishing Point (Nikki Boyd Files #4)
Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano (Bethany House) - Apart from the Crowd, book 2

When a paid companion gets caught returning an item her light-fingered employer stole, she becomes involved with tracking down a true thief that has been preying on society.

Murder at Thorburn Hall by Julianna Deering (Bethany House) - Drew Farthering Mysteries, book 6

Drew Farthering arrives at the 1935 British Open in Scotland to investigate an embezzler--only to discover him dead the next morning.

Vanishing Point by Lisa Harris (Revell) - Nikki Boyd, book 4

A police detective and an FBI agent team up together to find and stop a serial killer--but what if everything they've assumed true about the killer is false?

 Blue Ridge Sunrise (Blue Ridge Romance #1) The Austen Escape
Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter (Thomas Nelson) - Blue Ridge Romance, book 1

When the inheritance of her grandma's peach farm brings Zoe back to the town she never wanted to return to--and her first love whom she hoped never to see again--Zoe is trapped between everyone's expectations of staying to run the farm and the life she has built elsewhere.

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson)

At her best friend's insistence, Mary participates in a Jane Austen-themed vacation, only to have her friend regress into believing she truly is in Regency England--and while trying to bring her out of, Mary discovers that their lives have intersected in far more ways that she had ever known.

Monday, October 30, 2017

"A Dangerous Legacy" by Elizabeth Camden -- a thrilling historical

A Dangerous Legacy (Empire State, #1)Lucy Drake's position as a telegrapher has been vital in a 40-year legal battle that started with her grandfather and his brother and has continued down the generations. However, what she's doing isn't strictly legal, and when Sir Colin Beckworth, who manages their professional rivals just downstairs, catches her, they agree to help each other out. Putting aside the rivalry of their news agencies and the differences in their respective cultures, they find themselves enjoying each other far more than expected, but their pursuit of her family's stolen inheritance leads them down a dangerous path, both personally, and for the country.

One thing that has always impressed me is Camden's use of unusual professions, and when a character has a profession, it is important. It isn't just something she assigns to round them out as a character, it's integral to the plot, and it's integral to their person. Lucy as a telegrapher? Her skills are vital and stemming from a love of being connected with the world. Her brother Nick as a plumber, working in the city's underground? There's way more a plumber can do than you'd expect. Colin as a penniless aristocrat with a love of news and homing pigeons? It's what gives them an edge.

I love Camden's ability to surprise me. Several things that I'd expected, based on what would be worst-case scenario in my mind, didn't happen--instead, they led to a twist that I loved, where Lucy and Colin and Nick have an opportunity to be smart, not just brave. I wish I could tell you the brilliant things that happen, but it would spoil the plot. Suffice to say, I loved it all the twists this suspense has taken. And extra points for mature, intelligent heroes who apply to the law for help and use their heads!

While I have always enjoyed Elizabeth Camden's books, this one ranks up there with my favorites--The Rose of Winslow Street and Against the Tide (to which I would liken this one to in terms of the feel of the suspense and intelligence-gathering). The faith element might be minor, but it doesn't mean Colin and Lucy are without considerable growth. It's a great story, and I'm excited to see Nick will have his story continued in A Daring Venture (summer 2018).

Thank you Bethany house and NetGalley for a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Empire State
1. A Dangerous Legacy
2. A Daring Venture ( June 2018)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Mary Connealy's "Too Far Down" - the conclusion to the Cimarron Legacy

Too Far Down (The Cimarron Legacy, #3)In the final Cimarron Legacy book, we finally find out who is trying to steal the Bodens' ranch and destroy their family . . . but not before an explosion goes off at the Boden mine, where Cole is in charge. Cole has always been divided over his love for Boston and his love for New Mexico, and he has to admit there's a some significant things keeping him here--his family, the mine, and, well, just maybe their old friend and playmate, Melanie Blake, who can ride, shoot, and hogtie just as well as any man in the territory, and who seems intent on helping him track down the perpetrator of the explosion. But in the end, if they all survive and meet the stipulations of their not-yet-deceased father's will, what will he choose?

As usual, Mary Connealy starts off with a bang--though literally this time, not just figuratively. Poor Cole Boden just can't catch a break, between the healing gunshot wound in a previous book, to now dynamite explosions and cave-ins. I probably should have reread the whole series so I could be all caught up again with the plot--the villain really has been playing a long game to take control of the CR, and while I recalled most of it, I'd have made the connections faster if I'd reread. The books in this series are a lot more connected than has been typical in the author's series, which is fitting, given the family legacy theme. I definitely recommend starting reading with book 1. Strike that--the prequel. I'm going to enjoy rereading the series, especially now that I can pick up on hints I might not have noticed before!

I wouldn't have minded if Chase had made plans to take Mel out East for just a vacation or honeymoon, so she could experience that side of him--it really is a part of him. Though I must say he makes the correct decision in choosing his permanent residence. That is without question.

Once again, I loved how Connealy ties back in characters from other series - it's quite a pleasure to see a certain crazy man again, participating in (or causing?) the funniest part of the book. I think I'll have to go back and reread the entire 3 connected series (Kincaid Brides, Trouble in Texas, and Cimarron Legacy).

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Kincaid Brides--Trouble in Texas--Cimarron Legacy connected series:

Prequel: "Closer than Brothers: Surviving Andersonville" (published in With This Kiss Historical Collection of e-novellas)

Kincaid Brides
1. Out of Control
2. In Too Deep 
3. Over the Edge

Trouble in Texas
1. Swept Away 
2. Fired Up
3. Stuck Together

"Runaway Bride" (novella published in With This Ring?)

Cimarron Legacy
0.5 "The Boden Birthright" (free novella prequel)
1. No Way Up
2. Long Time Gone
3. Too Far Down